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Protection norms, rehab of villages boosted Maha's tiger count


Press Trust of India Nagpur
Work done by the compliance staff of Maharashtra's forest department at the ground level and rehabilitation of villages located around the tiger reserves have helped in increasing the tiger count in the state to 312 in 2018 from 190 in 2014, officials said on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday released the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018 in New Delhi and said the country has emerged as of one of the biggest and safest habitats for tigers in the world.
The tiger population in the country has increased from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018, the report said.
In Madhya Pradesh, the number of tigers has increased from 308 in 2014 to 526 in 2018, while in Maharashtra, it has gone up from 190 in 2014 to 312 in 2018, it said.
Nitin Kakodkar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Maharashtra, said compliance with protection norms and rehabilitation of villages located around tiger reserves have played a major role in boosting the count of big cats.
The tiger count in Maharashtra has increased by 64 per cent in four years, said the PR wing of the Maharashtra forest department.
Speaking to PTI, Kakodkar listed the measures taken by the forest department in conservation and protection of tigers and forests.
He said the work done by the compliance staff at the ground level has increased the protection level of tigers.
Also, rehabilitation of villages around the reserves has given more space to not only tigers but also their prey base, he said.
Initially, if prey base in an area was supporting 10 tigers, its expansion will support many more big cats, Kakodkar explained.
"This is one of the important factors because space is made available for the tiger and prey which reduces the biotic interference in that area," he said.
Kakodkar further said that the Tiger Conservation Foundation also helped the field-level officers both in terms of manpower and equipment.
Similarly, the implementation of schemes like the Syama Prasad Mukherjee Jan Van Yojana, started in 2015, helped in reducing the dependence of people on forests, he said.
Villagers got LPG cylinders and they were no longer required to go inside forests to collect fuel-wood. This also helped in reducing man-animal conflict, the officer said.
Around 727 villages were introduced to this scheme till 2018-19, Kakodkar said.
"Similarly, Maharashtra is doing good in ex-gratia paymentwhich has been increased in case of cattle killing, human deaths and crop compensation involving wild animals, a step which has reduced the instances of retaliatory killings.
"Besides, the forest staff has tried to address the issue of deaths (of tigers and other wild animals) due to electrocution by coordinating with MSEB (state-run electricity board).
"This threat is always there but what is important is by how much level we can reduce it," said Kakodkar.
He also informed about the technological measures introduced by the forest department.
"Technology plays a key role in monitoring. We are using 'M-stripes' app in tiger reserves, wherein the guard can track which parts and how much the distance he has covered when he goes out.
"This helps in better monitoring of various areas of the forest and repetition is reduced.
"Secondly, camera traps are widely used which help in knowing the movement of wild animals. This alerts the staff as well as people," said Kakodkar.
Kakodkar informed about the formation of a 'rapid rescue team' which improves the response time of the forest staff in dealing with an incident involving wild animals.
"We have formed a rapid rescue team at the circle level, which we want to take it to divisional and range levels. This will reduce the response time and build confidence among people," said Kakodkar.
"Our responsibility has increased and we will have to handle the situation in which co-existence will have to be emphasised, wherein how people and tiger can live together," said Kakodkar.
Wildlife activist from Vidarbha Jerryl Banait expressed happiness over the increase in tiger population in Maharashtra.
"At the same time our responsibility towards forest conservation has increased. First priority should be given to safeguarding migration corridor and eco-sensitive zones.
"Similarly, no industries should be allowed near forests and eco-sensitive zones. We have to give more priority to renewable sources of energy," he said.
Banait called for the need to have dedicated teams to handle man-animal conflicts.

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First Published: Jul 29 2019 | 10:10 PM IST

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